The art of doing nothing

There is something to be said about nothing.


“Il bel far niente means ‘the beauty of doing nothing’… [it] has always been a cherished Italian ideal. The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work, the final accomplishment for which you are most highly congratulated. The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life’s achievement.” —from Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.


I remember reading that and thinking, Yes! That right there is awesome. Elizabeth Gilbert is talking about making doing nothing your goal, the thing you work toward. I wonder how many people actually aspire to that? How many people actually want to get to the point where they do nothing? And what does nothing actually mean?

I am thinking about all of this because it is summer, and I usually have a big list of all these things that I want to do with my kids and husband during the summer. Inevitably, I run out of time and then regret not getting to everything. Sometimes I wish that I could just embrace the opportunity to do nothing in summer.

I love the idea of doing nothing—lying on a beach or sitting under a tree with a good book; taking a walk just for the sake of walking and enjoying a beautiful day; visiting museums and art galleries. Even my ideas of nothing are something though, aren’t they?

When I am on a vacation, I am usually able to relax and enjoy “Il bel far niente.” When we stayed on Nantucket with my husband’s family, and there was always a whole lot of nothing going on. Afternoons would find the adults sprawled out on the couches with noses in books or napping. I sigh now thinking of those lovely times. It’s probably no accident that Mick’s family is so accomplished at chilling—they’re part Italian!

The reality for me is that I have a hard time sitting still. I am a twitch. And much to my chagrin, I find it very hard to do nothing. It makes me nuts sometimes. I will settle in with a book on a Saturday and inevitable pop up from my seat a few minutes later to do something. I mean, there is always something I could be doing . . .

Maybe my version of Il bel far niente should just be doing whatever I really want to do. On that note, I wish you may find time to yourself for NOTHING. Whatever that may mean to you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *